In the backyard, several men smoked cigarettes while playing cards. They ranged in age from teenagers covered in tattoos to older men with large muscles and intimidating eyes. But as soon as Jahil set foot in the backyard the music stopped ad all eyes were on him. It was like they all knew Jahil, the immortal- where he went death and destruction followed.
“This is Sunny,” my man announced to the group. “She is my woman, my future bride.”
“Did Helen leave your sorry ass for a gringo?” Asked one man who appeared to be a little too drunk for his own good. “Helen, that girl had some legs on her…”
Jahil looked to Ricardo. “Is he someone of importance?”
The elderly man simply shrugged. “Do what you have to do.”Jahil had been away too long, he needed to remind them who was their king.
I watched as Jahil raised his hand- the man went up on flames, he didn’t even have a chance to scream. “And in case anyone else was curious. My beloved Helen was brutally murdered on a plantation in Ohio. It is not a subject I wish to discuss. ”
A teenage boy wearing a black t-shirt with arms covered in tattoos handed Jahil a beer. “It’s an honor to meet you sir.” The boy was at least 5”11”, with dark eyes and muscular arms.
“The name’s Enrique,” he said to me, in English.
I looked at Jahil, who nodded. He clearly knew him already.
Erique switched to Spanish to speak to Jahil. “Sir, if you’d like I can take your girl into town, give her a tour of the city while you conduct your business.
“I have a gun,” I said in Spanish. In case his intention was something other than being a good samaritan.
Enrique laughed. “And your man can set people on fire with his mind,” he replied also in Spanish. He cleared his throat and switched to English, “I don’t have a death wish I was just trying to be polite. And F-Y-I I’m no gang-banger, I live in California with my cousins, and I have an early acceptance letter to UCLA.”
“I apologize. I would love to go for a walk with you.” I then looked to Jahil. “Is that ok? Would you rather I stayed here?”
“No, you go have fun,” Jahil insisted. “When you get back our room will be ready.”
Jahil looked at the boy. “And Enrique, I remember you as a child in your dear mother’s arms.”
“Yeah, with Mom and Dad in heaven, I do what I can to do right by them.”
I put my coat on. Enrique’s face was stern, with dark, intimidating eyes similar to the rest of the group: he would grow up to be someone worthy of fear and respect. “How old are you?”I asked.
“Sixteen,” he said as we exited the house walking towards the center of town.
I laughed. “And you have early acceptance letter to UCLA?”
He nodded. “I always had a passion for linguistics.”
“How many languages do you speak?”
The boy started t count on his fingers, “English, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Russian…”
“How?” I asked.
He shrugged. “When you’re raised by the Mexican mafia…”
“What’s your major?” I had to ask.
“I’m going for a degree in psychology, and then I’m going to try for the US Special forces. Basically I want to torture terrorists for a living.”
“That’s cool, I guess.”
He started to laugh. “I’m messing with you. I’m going to get my degree in education. I want to be a teacher. Even if that means I will never get to be a US citizen.”
I understood. Under President Trump, it would be difficult for someone like Enrique to get a work visa unless he was striving for a high paying job. So I decided to change the subject. “What do you know about Jahil?”
Enrique took a moment to think about it. “I can only tell you what I’ve heard from the stories passed down through my family.”
“I’m listening.” Whatever he had to say would at least amount to more knowledge then I currently had.
“Back when Mayans existed they had a system in place kind of like what the Europeans had; the divine king- the ruler of all the land- a super being with a direct line to God.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding my head as we passed a fruit juice stand. I searched my pockets for money, suddenly realizing I only had American currency. Oh crap. My stomach was hurting. I couldn’t remember the last time I had anything to eat.
Enrique took out a few bills. “I got this.”He ordered me a mango juice and a grabbed a bottles water for himself. “The mango here is amazing.”
“Thanks,” I said as I took a much needed sip.
“Anyway, on with the story- according to legend a man was both around the turn of the sixteenth century. This was right in the heart of when the conquistadors were treating the native people like animals, hunting them for sport and torturing them just for fun. In fact the man himself had no father; his mother was a native girl who had been brutally raped.”
“Wow.” Even with what I knew about Jahil’s immortality, it was a lot to take in.
“The warrior traveled the lands as a beggar, looking for kind people- people worth protecting. You know what I mean?” He paused in front of a cathedral and crossed himself.
“Yeah,” I crossed myself alongside him, to be polite. “The poor are more likely to welcome you into their home then the rich- unless of course you yourself are also rich.”
He chuckled, “I like you Sunny: little white girl who gets it.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “Thanks, I like you too.”
Enrique nodded then looked away. “The next part of the story varies. Basically it’s his death. Do you want to hear it?”
“I said I did.”
“The warrior stood against a massive army to defend- something. A village, a temple, something important, and he got shot or hung, in some versions he was captured alive by a dozen soldiers on horseback. Either way what came next was not at all pleasant.” The boy paused to take a drink of water. “His body was put on display. There were six giant spikes stuck out of the ground: one went though each of his limbs then one through his head and another through his pelvic bone.”
“Oh gross!” I exclaimed. “Thanks for the mental image.”
“I warned you. When I met Jahil I felt terrible knowing what happened and I wasn’t even alive back then.”
“I get it.”
“Anyway, let me finish.” We both took a seat on a park bench. “There was a teenage girl who took pity on the warrior, she took an ax or a sword or something and cut down the pillars. The rest of the village thought she was crazy, because the moment the Spanish soldiers came back they would burn the place to the ground. But she didn’t care. The warrior was a brave man whose body deserved respect.”
I nodded. “What we leave behind is more than just meat and bone.”
“Exactly,” he said. “So the girl prepared his remains for a proper funeral. She bathed his body in scented oils to wash away the blood and smell of decay. She then covered the body in fresh leaves topping it with dry bark to start the fire. Once the fire ignited, just enough to feel warm like a blanket the girl removed some of the leaves so she could lie in his arms.”
“Why would she do that?” I asked. I had heard of Viking funerals where women were burned alive as sacrificial brides. I guess it was considered to be an honor.
“The warrior had been alone all of his life, she wanted him to know love. She offered herself to him so that he would have a bride in the afterlife. But what happened next was magic: the fire burned for six days, until all that remained was ash. Then on the seventh day the warrior’s body arose from the ash, completely healed. It was believed that the girl’s sacrifice saved him. Anyway he went on to try to hold back the Spanish armies- we all know that didn’t end well. But overall he now exists to fight for the rights of those who have no voice. And little by little create a new generation of super soldiers just like him.” Enrique patted my stomach.
I brushed his hand away. “How did you know I was pregnant?”
“Because he calls you his woman and you’re not dead,” he answered. “The warrior is the grandchild of Kinich Ahau, the God of the sun, a creature who stole the light from the underworld to place it on the sky. When the warrior’s mother passed on, her body ascended to the sky to live on as a star.
“Jahil has never mentioned his mother. And if she’s the daughter of a God why did she die?”
He shrugged, “Because no random stranger voluntarily sacrificed themselves on her funeral pyre? I don’t know I wasn’t there.”
“Fair enough, please continue.”
“I know about Jahil’s first wife, Helen, I even met her once. From the stories I heard she was an orphan. No one knows her true linage, but based on her white magic she might have been the daughter of Ixchel, the goddess of medicine. I know she was powerful enough to conceive a child with the immortal. And now the warrior has a son who will grow up to devote his life to helping people.”
“Yeah, I know, Austin is going to medical school.”
Enrique nodded. “That’s exactly what I mean. His son might become one of those doctors who treat people in war-torn countries. Or he might find a cure for cancer.”
“True,” I said, looking at my stomach. I wondered what kind of amazing things my child would grow up to accomplish.
“It’s getting pretty late; we should be heading back to my grandfather’s house,” he said, offering his hand.
“Your grandfather is the owner of the house?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, my grandfather knows the warrior personally, that’s why I know the stories. I even met Austin and Helen once. I was two years old, maybe three. I remember she was cute; plain but pretty- like you. And Austin- he was nice to me, but all I could think about was how amazing it must be to have Jahil as a father.”
We made our way back just before sun set. Enrique walked in ahead of me. “It doesn’t matter what Jahil is, just know- you are the woman he has chosen to love.”
When we made it back to the house, Ricardo was outside waiting with a beer. “Come inside little Sunny, I need to take your picture.” I followed him to his lab. He appeared to make a living off of forging passports. “Stand against the backdrop.” I brushed the hair out of my face and did as he asked.
“Yes that should work nicely,” he said. “Feel free to grab some food, or you can head upstairs with Jahil.”
“Thanks,” I said as I left. My stomach was grumbling but I missed Jahil more then I missed food.
Ricardo got up from his work table and went ahead of me. “Let me unlock the door for you. We wouldn’t want Jahil to have to come out of the bath to let you in.”
He opened the door for me and re-locked it. I went to the bathroom. There was a toilet that looked to be at least a century old, next to a large bathtub where my lover lay sleeping. His arms rested on the sides and his head lay on a pillow of towels. His face was freshly shaved.
I traced my fingers down his jaw line as I kissed his lips. He smiled. I undressed and got into the bath with him, straddling his hips. He laughed as my body caused the water level to over flow slightly as I sat on his lap.
He massaged my back with gentle pressure. “How was your walk with Ricardo’s grandson?”
I rested my head on his shoulder. “It was fine, I learned a lot.”
Jahil must have sensed the emotion in my voice. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I turned my body, to lie comfortably on my back. “No, I just want you to hold me.”
4 thoughts on “History Lesson (Excerpt)”
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Once upon a time in ancient Mexico…